Opponents of Joseph's House have latched on to a fairly specious argument.
But to many in the room, that was the problem. They see the Little Italy area of the city as a community on the upswing and want the property to remain commercial."Little Italy is developing," said Jean Krueger, owner of a business across the street. She stressed the need to preserve commercial properties. "It's the lifeblood."
That arguement does not ring true.
Would opponents be worried if someone wanted to convert the old pool hall into eight, high-rent condominiums or apartments? Doubtful. After all, New York's Little Italy and Boston's North End combine both commercial and residential, resulting in unique, vibrant communties.
No, they don't want a homeless shelter in their neighborhood. It makes them uneasy. And you know what, it's hard to find fault with their uneasiness. The problem is the "Not in My Backyard" mentality.
We have an ethical and moral obligation to help those on the fringes of society. Such charity is a traditional American value. Some may not know it, but the early American colonies (particularly those in New England) took this obligation quite seriously. Many of the early New England townships had three public offices: a constable; a public works official to maintain the roads; and an Overseer of the Poor. The basis of this obligation was originally the Congregationalist's dedication to charitable deeds.
So please, all of you good conservatives that pay such endearing lip service to traditional values, or those of you who parrot back the fallacy that the United States was founded on Christianity, act like it.
Does the shelter belong at 202 4th Street? We don't know. It belongs somewhere and aside from a few cranks, Trojans tend to have an innate sense of fairness and decency. But, if the NIMBY attitude continues, the weakest of our population suffers.
Not so long ago, you could encur the wrath of the neighbors by selling or renting to African-American. Before that it was Italians and before them, the Irish. Haven't you read those wonderful turn-of-the-century sociologists? You know the ones: the ones that proved that the Irish, the Italians the take-your-pick, were congenitally disposed towards crime.